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People attending the Hillsdale Municipal Airport’s Patriot’s Day Fly-In were able to tour and fly in the Douglas C-47 Sky­train, the “Hairless Joe.” Col­legian | Regan Myer

 

A plethora of planes descended onto the tarmac of the Hillsdale Municipal Airport Sunday for the airport’s annual fly-in breakfast.

The 3rd annual fly-in included various fundraisers for local service clubs, a classic car show, and vintage plane rides. All of this was com­pleted with breakfast and lunch for pilots, hungry after a bit of flight time.

Fly-ins have a long history at Hillsdale’s airport, but the event was changed a few years ago to coincide with Patriot’s Day. Airport Manager Ginger Moore said she has been going to fly-ins for years, even remem­bering when the airport opened in 1963.

“It’s been going forever,” Moore said. “This is the third annual Patriot’s Day fly-in, but the fly-ins have been going on since I was a kid.”

The National Exchange Club of Hillsdale County spon­sored the breakfast, which serves as a fundraiser for the various causes the club sup­ports.

“It’s oper­a­tional money,” past pres­ident and Exchange Club fly-in manager, Jason Walters said. “It’s also money that we use to fund all of the spon­sor­ships that we do through the year. We spend a lot of money on CAPA, the Child Abuse Pre­vention Asso­ci­ation. We do student of the month, college spon­sor­ships. We donated the water fountain out at the Field of Dreams.”

The Exchange Club decided to move the fly-in to Patriot’s Day in order to attract more planes to the event.

“There were other fly-ins and air shows that were close to us that same weekend,” Walters said. “It was neg­a­tively effecting how many planes would come.”

The club chose Patriot’s Day weekend because it was a weekend with no com­peting fly-ins or other related events. When the fly-in moved, it took on a mil­itary theme, which allowed the event to grow and evolve.

“The move really inspired more things,” Walters said. “The American Legion then wanted to be a part of it. The National Guard wanted to come out and bring either their Blackhawk, or one year they had the Chinook heli­copter. The C-47 from the Yankee Air Museum got in on it. They do rides in addition to the display. Changing it to a mil­itary themed fly-in has really made the fly-in evolve into some­thing bigger than just a breakfast.”

The Exchange Club funded a display of white crosses, each with the name of a Hillsdale County res­ident who served in the mil­itary and passed away.

The Jonesville American Legion also raised money at the fly-in, selling raffle tickets to benefit the number of orga­ni­za­tions they support, including Girls and Boys State and the Student Trooper program.

“We sent three boys and two girls to Boys and Girls State, as well as one boy to the state trooper program,” post Adjutant Gerald Arno said. “We also do funerals; give vet­erans their last rites. We’ve been doing about 25 of those a year.”

Yankee Air Museum pilots flew down the museum’s Douglas C-47 Sky­train. The C-47 is a deriv­ative of the Douglas DC3. The plane’s pilot, Howard Rundell, has been flying with the museum for 11 years.

“The DC3 came out in 1935 and com­pletely rev­o­lu­tionized the airline industry,” Rundell said. “It was rev­o­lu­tionary in every sense, design, mate­rials, con­struction, comfort, safety, speed, fuel effi­ciency. When the war threatened, the gov­ernment bought thou­sands of these air­planes.”

The C-47 at the fly-in, the “Hairless Joe”, was built and delivered to the Army Air Corps in 1945. The “Hairless Joe” never left the United States, so it is tech­ni­cally not clas­sified as a war bird.

“It flew in the Army Air Corps and then flew in the Air Force until 1962,” Rundell said. “Sometime after that, the Uni­versity of Michigan got the air­plane. They used it and mod­ified it for air­plane research and started devel­oping radar and other systems for the gov­ernment.”

The Yankee Air Museum acquired the air­plane in the early 1980s and restored it. The museum has been flying the air­plane to dif­ferent events since 1984.

“It’s a real priv­ilege to fly the air­plane,” Rundell said. “All the pilots are vol­un­teers. The DC3 C-47 is on every pilot’s bucket list. We want to fly it. So I’m priv­i­leged to have had a chance to fly this air­plane.”

Private pilots flew in from around Michigan for the event. Private pilot Doug Neff of Pontiac, Michigan came for lunch.

“During the fall and summer, we fly to a lot of fly-in break­fasts and lunches,” Neff said. “We were in Fowlerville for breakfast and then flew here.”

Neff bought his 1967 Cessna 182 four years ago this October. He got his private pilots license six years ago. Neff said he wished more people would get involved with flying.

“It’s just a fun thing to do,” Neff said. “I wish more people, more young people espe­cially, would get involved. There’s a shortage of com­mercial pilots right now. Now is a great time to start flying and get your com­mercial pilots license.”

 

  • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

    I earned my private pilots license back in the mid 1970’s, getting most my hours on a Piper Cherokee 140 that my brother and I owned. You flying folks are going to love this story, but I was renting a Cessna 150 for $ 16.00/hour ‘wet’ (instructor extra) and my brother was renting an aer­o­batic Citabria for $ 18.00/hour ‘wet’ at Three Rivers Airport in 1974/75. Those were the days, flying was cheap and planes for instruction were readily available. Those days are gone forever, they won’t come back again!